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I am doing a lot of scent consultations lately and it is always very inspiring. It gives me a reason to stay in and smell things and google fragrances for hours, which is of course amazing. It is also a very inspiring challenge to tune into people in the right way so I can really feel their vibe right. But one of the best parts is that through their descriptions of their preferences and sensory references clients give me the most amazing creative images and worlds. I really love reading or listening to someone sharing their ideas with me when they describe what sounds, textures etc they like… And just the other day, as a result of posting the image below on Instagram I found myself in a conversation and scent quest that is just too good not to share.

Want to play with me?

The photo of a sample of a Code Deco perfume evolved into a conversation about musical elements translated into scent notes. (You know I love this topic…) I have promised to find a perfume that is the scent format of a musical description a person (Hi Jimmy!) gave me. I will definitely enjoy doing this… But I thought maybe some of you would enjoy joining me?

Here are the clues (amazing brief huh?): classical, jazz, Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise and Pathetique by Beethoven, Mozart Amadeus. Violin, piano, cello. Abraham Laboriel & Justo Almario. Bobby McFerrin. Mali Music, extremely high pitches, low base notes, Andrea Bocelli. Peace, sunlight, a plane in the sky. A soft caress of silk on fresh skin after a shower. Emerging after holding breath under water. Green hills, blue skies, colors. Playful but soft and slow. Turqoise and aquamarine. A forest, whispering wind, streaks of light, forest sounds.

What do you think…? Any notes come to mind? Or specific fragrances?

You can use the comment field here or go to the Sense of Scent Facebook where perfumer Dana El Masri, who has created a fragrance range based on inspiration from music, has shared some inspiring thoughts on this…

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The scent is “B Minor” from Code Deco, an artisanal perfumery in Singapore. I discovered it through beloved MiN New York’s excellent member’s club. B Minor has a top of dry gin, bergamot and white grapefruit. Middle notes are cardamon, clove buds and a white flower accord. Base is Haitian vetiver, amber and musk and something Code Deco call Jazz Base. It has been marketed as a masculine fragrance but for the sake of freedom of creative exploration (and consultation research) I am not too bothered about that.

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As I return from some magic days with old and new friends in my beloved happy place Amsterdam I carry many scented memories with me home. Some of these are related to the music experiences. This was truly a music-filled trip and the highlight was seeing Kenyan band Sautisol live, something that I have been looking forward to so much (more on my love for Kenya can be found in this post…). For a synaesthete (great explanation can be found on Olfactif) its more than natural that music and smells resonate and create some really good mind travel. But then you also obviously have the leather of jackets and straps, the metals, the particular sweat of excitement and dance, the rain, the way venues smell both a bit rough and comforting somehow… All this reminds me of something I wrote a while back… “What does a G minor chord smell like?”.

Some time ago I was so happy when some Jasmin Saraï creations arrived in the mail. The perfumes are made by perfumer Dana el Masri (remember when I posted about her brilliant interview with Mandy Aftel way back?) and they are all inspired by music. Love the idea. It’s not uncommon to use music for inspiration but Dana has done so much more through how she incorporates and communicates the links between the fragrance and the song. My favorite so far that I also for some reason really like to bring with me when traveling is Otis & Me.

Sauti Sol soundcheck

Sauti Sol soundcheck

Dresses, fabrics, cutlery, eye shadow(s), hair, playlists, scallops, weather, tents, napkins, wines, cakes, cookies, beloved relatives, impossible relatives, speeches, ribbons… The list of things that can be part of planning a wedding is endless.

If you ask me an important sense is often neglected. There are perfumes advertised in wedding magazines, and every now and then a story about a particular perfume and a related love story of someone famous, or a perfume created as a love declaration. But I can’t remember a more dedicated piece on the scent aspects of a wedding. (If you have, please share). Some perfume writers and bloggers have addressed this topic in an ambitious way though. I have also not seen proper consultations offered in retail (I don’t count “there is a new romantic lily of the valley out on the market, the perfect scent for a bride” as a wedding scent consultation).

Now you may think, well maybe it’s just not as important and prominent as the dress, music, place, flowers etc… My answer is: are you sure?

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Smells have a very powerful impact on our memories, moods and feelings. So when selecting the details that will create the atmosphere of a wedding, it should be natural to consider also how scents will contribute. It is easier than you think.

The scent of an occasion like this (the thoughts in this post can be applied to any event of significance) is just as significant and influential as the music or scenography. It’s just that there is no tradition of working with it. That however does not mean that we are not affected, and making more personal, emotionally valuable, romantic and wise choices would indeed make a difference.

So, what should you think about? Two things mainly: yourself and your partner (that is one thing) and the other smells at your wedding. The other ones are for example the food, the flowers in your bouquet, surrounding flowers and plants (both decorations and already existing ones), the setting.

Choosing a scent is not very different from the other choices you will be making in that the same criteria should apply. At some point you probably sat down and made a list of what you want your wedding to be like, for example romantic, elegant, unusual, playful, sweet, decadent, personal, sophisticated, relaxed. And you had some ideas on what that would lead to, for example if you and your partner love nature and you want your wedding to be personal you’ll want to incorporate some nature elements into your wedding in setting and menu and clothes. If you are a couple from different cultures you probably put some effort into coming up with ideas on how to add different elements and symbols based on that. If you want a Rat Pack wedding that has influenced your choice of DJ and dress and venue. Etc etc. All these kinds of thoughts and ideas can be translated into scents.

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Your fragrance
Let’s start with you. If you like to wear perfume (or other fragranced products), you will want to wear some for your big love celebration and you’ll want it to be special and right. A wedding is usually an event that lasts for a few hours and as a bride or groom you want to feel fresh and uplifted not tired, uplifted. Maybe you prepared the day before by doing sports and eating and drinking healthy, you have gone to a spa or beautician to add some glow. Scents too, affect our energy, they can help us feel fresh. A scent can also soothe or even make us tired. I would be very surprised if there have not been some people getting married wearing a perfume that either made them tired or maybe even allergic. A wise fragrance choice is one that keeps you in the right mood and supports energy – for example a nice clean cologne or other citrus fragrance for the day and the emotional moments that easily make your body send off extra heat, and then for the evening something more sensual, gourmand or spicy. These two fragrances should be selected so they go well with each other though.

If you feel tense and a little more nervous that you want to feel – it might be unwise to have a fragrance that is too complicated, a more clean fragrance with balanced calm notes will help you relax and feel centered. On the other hand if you are exhausted from preparations, support yourself with something that keeps your mind awake. And of course… coordinate your scent with your partner. You will be close all day, don’t expose yourselves to a scent collision that will not smell nice and give you both a headache. These are just some aspects to consider from a more practical point of view.

Choose a fragrance synchronized with your wedding bouquet. A perfect perfume and a perfect bouquet might clash when in combination if they include smells that don’t go well together. Choose flowers in your bouquet also from a scent perspective; avoid sedating or too strong smell. Co-ordinate your perfume provider and your florist.

Generally, I would say that for your wedding day – don’t go complex. Choose something light, soft, intimate and personal but easy. There will be so much going on, so many people, so many emotions and hormones. Trust your preferences. While its never right to make a perfume purchase too fast (too fast in this case means for example without taking the time to experience more than top notes) this is really really not the time for a hasty risky purchase. Other things to consider can be looking for a perfume house or creator that you identify with, associations to geographical places (for example places that are part of your romantic history together), perfumes created in a romantic contexts (By nose couples, or perfumes created by a nose for a lover or commissioned for a beloved.) And if you can, maybe consider creating your own fragrance for this day with the help of a perfumer.

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Smell an(d) emotion
Now from an emotional and romantic point of view (and what occasion is there more relevant for that than a wedding) there is so much you can do with scents. It is a fact that regardless of whether we are interested or pay attention to it, scents are very powerful because of the brain’s design. Scents are connected to memories and feelings. If you think about it, you probably have some scent memories that you connect to a person, a place or a situation.

This is the same mechanism that teleports us to places and times when we smell something and suddenly get an image in our head. So imagine how beautiful to use this brain force at your weeding and connect this day to those particular moments. During a wedding scent consultation process I talk to a couple about their romantic history to identify one, or several, particular scents that we can work with. Maybe the scent of the first flowers your partner gave you, maybe there is a spice in your favorite meal to cook together, maybe a smell in the apartment or something from a trip together.
A scent that creates an instant connection to the feeling of “us”.

Not only will highlighting such a scent detail during the wedding add emotion from the past, which will intensify your experience, it will also be coded in the brain for the future. So in one or ten years when you want to relive some of that feeling from your wedding day using that scent will help you.

Scent scenography
Naturally, we are not talking just about perfume but also about the food, the setting, floral arrangements etc. What we are looking for is a consciously created scent scenography for your wedding which supports atmosphere, emotion and well-being. It should be functional and personal.

Here are some concrete things to consider:

– The place your wedding ceremony and party are in already has/have some scents – take them into consideration. If it’s a church maybe don’t wear incense-like perfume, it will be too much. If you are in a garden with trees and flowers – be careful when adding more flowers so not to create an overdose.
– Synchronize the smells in food, fragrance and flower decorations.
– Avoid smells that guests might react to. For example big lilies give many people a headache and they take over so if you have a lovely plate in your menu with delicate tastes it might not get the attention it deserves.
– If you are giving guests gifts, a scented candle can be really special. Create a red thread, for example if you had roses in your bouquet and fragrance a nice scented rose candle will make the day live on. (Scented candles deserve a post on their own…, they are often used to create an atmosphere, sometimes a shortcut. A good candle is great but no candles by the food! And choose carefully.)
– Create a sensory frame that is comfortable for the senses for guests – everything from food to scented candles in wash rooms should be treated like members of one ensemble. Think of scent as a scenography tool.

If reading this made you interested in making scent scenography part of your wedding and you would like some help with that or if you are a wedding coordinator and would like to incorporate this into your process please feel free to contact me for a consultation using the comments section below or by e-mail sylvia(at)interabang.nu

I often help someone find a signature scent or create a perfume wardrobe for example by finding additions to their work fragrance that smells to safe for romance, or their romantic fragrance that doesn’t feel right for work. Or an upgrade, for example when someone has been wearing the same favorite perfume for 5-10 yrs (not at all unsusal) and feel that they still like it… but have outgrown it. Then we look for something similar, for example the same heart notes, but something more complex or mature or dark added. As we walk through life our inner child often stays the same, but we go through experiences, challenges, times – that add shades to our personalities. Shades, depth, complexity. When you wear a perfume that is right for you, it will reflect many parts of who you are. Then you get that feeling of you just smelling like you because someone created a beautiful formula that defines some of your characteristics with fragrance notes. This is a very different feeling from “wearing a nice perfume” that lies on top of your skin like a pretty fabric. There is nothing arbitrary about what feels right. Not in life, not in perfumery.

Finding those perfumes that really match is not easy. The market offers an abundance that is over-whelming even to the most passionate and curious perfumista. But it is worth it, and once you learn how to navigate and recognize the patterns in your preferences it is not as complicated as it looks. For myself, I choose to ask for guidance so that I can find perfumes that I have not discovered where notes that I like have been used. I ask for stories about them and I ask for help to discover new brands. I don’t look for someone to help me choose my perfume as I have trained myself now to translate thoughts and aspects of my character to notes and types of perfumes. If you feel unsure about such things, talk to someone who is skilled and really takes the time to help you find a perfume for the creative you or the you that wants something comforting or uplifting or mischievous or escapist. For a true perfume expert these are not strange questions. Choose the right advisor.

I am sure you have been in the situation where you just love a perfume that someone is wearing, you go buy it… and… anticlimax. It doesn’t feel like you thought it would, it is not as amazing on you. You wonder if your mind and memory played tricks on you. This is not unusual. But it is a great reminder of two things – perfume is like a relationship – it is not about you and not about the other – it is about happens in between, in the space that is the together.

Perfume sensations are created in the meeting between a formula and a person’s skin. And every person’s skin is different. There is nothing objective about perfume. The other thing is – do not make hasty decisions. It does not matter how skilled you are, you just do not know what a perfume that is composed with top, heart and base will smell like in an hour of five on you. No one knows. The super-charming person who sells it to you doesn’t know even if she or he is an expert and amazing. Take your time. Get a sample if you can. Get ten samples of ten perfumes with sandalwood if that is what you are looking for. Take your time. Apply the perfume, take a coffee and come back in an hour. And don’t be disappointed if your friend’s magic potion smells boring on you. Or different. Be curious. You’ll find your magic potion, maybe there is just some little detail that needs to be different for you. Try to detect what the difference is – does it smell sweeter in him/her? Does it smell more flowery on you? Try to remember the difference and ask an expert.

Skin, painted by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

I will give you an example. I have been wearing Ambre Narguilé for some years. Or to be honest, I bought it a few years back and wore it a lot during two years with mixed feelings. I adore this perfume. It is a masterpiece to me. But, I found myself often thinking that it was too overwhelming and not appropriate in many situations. And later on I felt that it lacked something for me to feel really comfortable with it, it was too sweet. It lacked integrity or a mature nuance. So in the last two or so years I have not been wearing it at all but I smell the bottle sometimes to use as reference when searching for similar compositions. Among perfumistas this fragrance is well-known. Still I have not met anyone that wears it a lot. Then comes a man. He says he really likes the perfume, I think “Really?” and feel how in my eyes he becomes slightly more like a baklava than Omar Sharif.

He introduces me to Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan, and I am amazed because this – is the darker version of Ambre Narguilé that I have been wishing for. In my mind this man is starting to be associated with an olfactory world that I find rather attractive. His voice, his choice of words, his aesthetic preferences, his unbelievably immature sense of humor are joined by his scents. The latter exposing a darker side of him than the blond bangs.

Tillya Kori Madrash, Samarkand

Then he brings out another of his favorites, a completely harmless airy Gatsby cocktail party apple lemonade lunchtime careful kiss on the cheek sorbet and dancing on a meadow in a perfectly cut flowery organza skirt kind of story. Bois 1920, Sushi Imperiale. It feels like someone just gave me my first kiss on a summer day in 1939. And then gave me raspberries on a straw before we go look at the horses and the sunset. Someone wears an immaculate linen vest and smiles like a young Sinatra though. It’s Rat Pack meets Anna Karenina of Green Gables. I fall like a rock sliding down a rainbow of course and get instantly addicted. (To the extent where he has to order me to let go of the bottle because the heat from my palms will ruin the perfume). A couple of weeks later I order it from MiN. It is on its way as we speak. I can’t wait. I will wear it like nothing else matters more than raspberries on a straw and immaculate linen vests and Green Gables are the perfect place to be flown to the moon and then share an apple stolen from the strange neighbour’s tree.

   

And then he appears again. Wearing the darkest most intriguing strange thing thats smells like a love affair on the way to Samarcand and words that cannot be spoken. “What are you wearing??”, I say. He answers, “you have it, Ambre Narguilé”. It is a mystery to me where the carnal alluring notes disappear when I wear it. Same perfume. Completely different experiences. On me it is Christmas dessert and the Nutcracker, on him a secret night in Venice, a 19th century emerald shining from a décolletage at the opera. Forbidden. “Warn me?

I have more examples, oh so many more. Of perfumes that surprise and confuse and alter as they evolve on one person’s skin or another’s. Of the infinite mysteries that create a love affair between the nose and the mind. This is one of the many reasons why perfumes fascinate me.

Come, let’s dance!

During the last couple of weeks I have mainly been wearing two solid perfumes from Aftelier, Muse and Parfum Privé. Wearing perfumes by Mandy Aftel is so different from other perfume experience that I tend to wear them in phases, not mixing with anything else for a few days or weeks.

I am not sure exactly what it is that creates the particular feeling, if it is Mandy’s hands or the carefully selected and treated (few) ingredients or like in these two cases – that they are solid. Probably a mix of these aspects. It creates a perfume experience that is just…different. Genuine. It has very little to do with the feeling of applying for example a commercial fashion brand perfume regardless of how nice it would be.

Solids are quite unusual. This is unfortunate, if you ask me, because to me a solid feels more intimate, more integrated with my skin. The application feels sensual and somehow, the word that comes to mind is diachronic. When applying a solid with my fingertips I feel like I am repeating a ritual that has been performed during thousands of years. There is something ceremonial about solid perfume and it evokes that feeling of a bond between scents and health. Like its an ancient ointment that will save and seduce at the same time. Add to this feeling the particular notes in these perfumes: lime, clary sage, labdanum and rosemary absolute in Muse – and bergamot, pink pepper, orange flower, osmanthus, pimento leaf, ambrette and ambergris in Parfum Privé – and you should be able to imagine the combination of sensual base notes and something that feels like it was made to cure practically anything a long time ago.

Could this be made by anyone other than Mandy Aftel? I don’t think so. After having read Mandy’s book and slowly discovered several of her creations I am starting to see what links them. There is just no other perfume like it. There are many amazing perfumes, but something that has been made by someone so dedicated to their craft, with their hands – becomes unique in the best sense of the word and very real. Dynamic. When I have worn these perfumes I always miss them when they start to fade.

And they make me want to listen to Regina Spektor and learn how to dance like Rachel Brice.

Today I am wearing Sepia. And I am listening to this (if you don’t have Spotify try this), ‘How to Organize a Lynch Mob’ by Diablo Swing Orchestra. Let me tell you why.
About ten years ago I embarked on a plane to Florence. I had been studying Art History for a year and was profoundly disappointed with courses, teachers and exams that had almost entirely killed my passion for art. I got on that plane with a promise to myself, or two actually: to come home and speak Italian and to restore my love for striking angles, composition and color perfection. After a week or so I found myself on a train from Florence to Venice (ok, first I accidentally got on a train to Napoli but that’s another story) with the mission to see a painting that I had seen on posters on my way to school in Piazza Santo Spirito. Actually, it was not the painting per se that I wanted to see, it was the red color of the scarf that a woman in the painting was wearing. Most of that day was spent going to and then from Florence. I was in Venice just for a couple of hours but I did see the red color and it was one of the best and most important moments of my life. 
But my most mind-altering art experience in those months was not this painting. It was seeing Michelangelos unfinished giants. This experience will always be what really made art part of me and I have no idea if I will ever feel as many intense feelings in relation to art ever again. I hope I will, but I am not sure. Experiencing art is very personal, the places it shakes in our minds, the references it awakens. The exact details of why I was affected aren’t really that relevant to anyone else. But I will share one aspect of it with you and you will understand why I am writing about this here. It is sometimes said that there are two types of sculpturers, those that mold an object into an idea that they have, and those that carve out something that is – or not – in the stone. Michelangelo was one of those that perceived the stone as having its own predefined potential for some shape and he was just the person who brought it out. The giant unfinished statues are an example of this process. The stone did not allow him to do more. Watching them for the first time I was struck by how it was hard to tell the exact place where statue became stone and vice versa. I sensed beauty as well as frustration, strength and pain. I also felt a sort of dynamic that I have rarely perceived. As if the process was ongoing. 

A week or so ago, I received a collection of samples from Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier. I read Mandy’s book of course. Not read, read in the present tense as this is the only way that feels right. I read it slowly, as if I am having a slow conversation with it. I underline, go back, return… I have been curious about Mandy’s perfumes for some time now but in a way that I cannot quite explain, I have been waiting for the right moment to experience them. And I knew that I would know when it came. Because this is something entirely different than most olfactory experiences, and definitely different from most perfume experience.

It will take me some time to try all the samples because I want to get to know them thoroughly. Contemplate, go through different thoughts and pay attention to every detail. I am not sure what I expected. But I will tell you my first impression because it was undeniable and very concrete. I sense the care that has been invested in these perfumes. The thought, the poetry, the hands that have blended them. And then this: they feel alive. Not in some mumbo-jumbo metaphysical strange way. They just feel alive. Like those sculptures. They are not being blended anymore, they have been put in tiny adorable little containers and shipped to Sweden and nothing intervenes with them… but when I put them on my skin I have absolutely no idea what will happen. Or if the same thing will happen the next time I wear one of them. They seem to play with my skin and change constantly and I am not sure if I am choosing the perfume or if it is choosing me. If I am discovering it or if it is discovering me. Of course, I am playing with words here… What I am trying to convey is that feeling of an ongoing process.

A few years ago I worked with a theatre director on his communication and brand platform. He taught me something that has been very valuable and essential to me ever since. Apart from his work with the theatre he held courses and workshops with corporate clients from all sectors using the methods that the theatre uses to create teams. One of his key messages was that an ensemble is not about separate stars, it is about being an ensemble – and that – is created not through the excellence of one person or the other but in the space between the individuals. I think about this often. The importance of space. In communication, in relationships, in creativity. The process is not what is delivered from one point to another, the process is what happens in between. And that process is free, and unpredictable and redefines itself every second. Something happens when I wear Aftelier perfumes, and it just keeps happening for hours.

The piercingly beautiful string arrangement in ‘How To Organize a Lynch Mob’ with Diablo Swing Orchestra’s cello master Johannes Bergion gives me that same feeling. As if it is played live every time I hear it, and I need to listen carefully because next time it might not sound the same. If you ever get to see this band live, cancel all your other plans and go. This ensemble sums up everything I have written tonight with their music.

The art of making something that has been captured… feel constantly unexpected. Space?

There is one perfume commercial more infamous than any other. Chanels “Balcony” for Egoïste, produced in 1990, directed by Jean Paul Goude. Égoïste was created by Jacques Polge and is a woody spicy fragrance with sicilian tangerine, brazilian rosewood, coriander, damask rose, sandalwood, vanilla and ambrette seed.

Jean-Paul Goude was born in 1940 in Saint-Mandé. He is a graphic designer, illustator, photographer and advertising film director. His name became famous world-wide for the Chanel commercial but many people knew about him already before because of his collaboration with icon Grace Jones. He directed several of her videos and took many memorable photos of her. Their collaboration was at its peak in the early 1980’s and their personal chemistry strong enough for her to become his muse and the mother of a son, Paulo. Paulo Goude has a band, Trybez. Here’s a moment of their concert at one of my favorite places in the entire world – Paradiso. Rather crappy quality but still. This is his mother performing on the same stage.


Goude is a universe of inspiration and aesthetic joy. Explore his official website or check out the official documentary video So Far, So Goude. Right now, there is a restrospective hommage to his career in Paris, at Les Arts Décoratifs. Go if you can!

The music you hear in the Chanel Ègoïste commercial is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Montagues and Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet. With this magnificent take on the complete version I wish you a lovely Saturday. Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.